Old Mining Town

A couple of months back, we took a back-country adventure to the Smuggler Mine camp near Sheridan Montana. As promised in that entry, following is another historical place to explore Montana’s mining past complete with conventional places to camp and a few nice boondocking locations for those that truly enjoy the back country.


The first mining claim in the Quartz Hill area was located by John Vipond in April of 1868 with silver being the primary metal being sought after. Additional prospecting resulted in more claims being filed and the need for a good road to transport supplies and ore. During this time, the town of Dewey developed along Montana’s Big Hole River at the base of the drainage leading up to Quartz Hill. In order to get ore to the smelters, the miners built the Quartz Hill Road from the mines down the canyon to Dewey.  As a result of being located at the receiving end of Quartz Hill Road, Dewey thrived as a supply and milling center for the mines.



The most productive mine in the Quartz Hill area was the Lone Pine which was located in the late 1870s. In 1891 it was sold to an English syndicate for the handsome sum of $725,000. The new owners installed a 25-stamp mill and a concentrating plant at the mine which produced $33,000 in silver monthly in addition to smaller amounts of lead, zinc and copper. The first boom ended in 1895 when low silver prices and a depletion of good ore forced the mines to close. In 1928 the Quartz Hill Mining Company bought the properties and reopened the mine when a new ore body was discovered a few hundred feet southwest of the original Lone Pine vein. This new discovery was called the West Lone Pine and was a steady silver producer from 1933 to 1950. The buildings you will see during your visit to Quartz Hill are from this period.



Although most of the Quartz Hill's production came from the Lone Pine mine, there were a number of other mines which contributed. The Aurora Mine produced 663 tons of ore from 1933 to 1936 from workings located about one half mile northwest of the West Lone Pine mine. Another significant producer was the Monte Cristo Mine, located about 1.25 miles north of the Lone Pine, which produced 19,872 ounces of silver. Ruins of both mines remain with the most interesting being located at the Monte Cristo. The still standing multi-compartmented ore box at the Monte Cristo is made of logs rather than sawn lumber typical of such structures.

To get there:

Turn off Hwy 43 onto Quartz Hill Road just west of Dewey, Montana at: N45° 46.600  W112° 51.777

While the town of Dewey is not very ghostly as ghost towns go, the true ghosts of Dewey reside in the cemetery which you will find along Quartz Hill Road at: N45° 46.235  W112° 51.775   A stroll among the headstones of Dewey's former residents will reveal much about the past happenings of this now quiet town.

Continue up Quartz Hill Road for about 5 miles to: N45° 42.945  W112° 53.915  which will bring you to the remains of the Lone Pine mine on your left and the homes of the last miners on your right.

Those wanting to visit other Quartz Hill mines will want to turn north on an unnamed road at: N45° 42.935   W112° 54.135

Traveling north along this road you will pass other mines and abandoned cabins arriving at the Monte Cristo Mine at: N45° 43.890  W112° 54.200
Quartz Hill Road is suitable for most two wheel drive vehicles. The unnamed road to the Monte Cristo Mine is a bit rougher and narrower requiring higher clearance.

Camping:

To allow adequate time to fully explore the Quartz Hill area, you will want to set up camp in the vicinity of Dewey, Montana.

RV Parks: The Wise River Club is the nearest RV park to Dewey. It is located in the neighboring town of Wise River about 6 miles west of Dewey on Hwy 43. The park offers 14 RV spaces along with cabin rentals. Those navigating by GPS will find Wise River Club at: N45° 47.525  W112° 57.276

Public Campgrounds: Divide Bridge campground operated by the BLM is the nearest public campground to Dewey. It is located about 4.5 miles east of Dewey off a short spur road south of Hwy 43. The campground offers 24 sites with no hook ups. There is no potable water or dump station. You will find the campground at: N45° 45.229  W112° 46.558

Boondocking: Several options for boondocking (dispersed camping) exist.  

For those that don't care to camp far off the beaten path there are several camping spots right off Highway 43 along the river immediately west of Dewey. Turn north off the highway: N45° 46.650  W112°51.610 and take your choice of sites.

A couple of boondocking sites exist along Quartz Hill Road which is the most convenient place to start your adventure. Turn south off Highway 43 onto Quartz Hill Road at: N45° 46.600  W112° 51.781



For those that aren't easily spooked, there is a nice space with a fire ring and picnic table just to the south of the Dewey Cemetery at N45° 46.176   W112° 51.785 The interned residents will appreciate the company.

A large level grassy space that will hold numerous RVs can be found at N45° 45.796  W112°51.690  This site is under the jurisdiction of the Butte BLM field office with camping limited to 16 consecutive days.

Quartz Hill, just one more reason to RV in the Northwest! – Enjoy

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